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Study Finds 46 Percent of Americans Say Church Lacks Moral Leadership on Economy

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The Library of Congress

With the Occupy Wall Street protests roiling in key cities throughout the United States, it's clear that many Americans are experiencing severe unrest. A recent study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, DC, examines the similarities and differences among Americans with opinions on the Tea Party, Occupy Wall Street, the economy, and the federal budget. As you read through the study, it's clear that Americans are growing increasingly disenchanted with the notion of an American Dream, the government, and -- in many cases -- the church.

The study finds that 79 percent of Americans from a broad diversity of political, religious, and economic backgrounds agree that the gap between the rich and the poor has gotten larger. Interestingly,  Americans are divided over the impact of income inequality – 56 percent of Republicans believe the American Dream is still achievable to people who work hard, while only 36 percent of Democrats believe the American Dream is still achievable.

With regard to the federal budget, a majority of Americans (74 percent) oppose cutting funding for the military, for social programs that help poor people (67 percent), and for religious organizations that help poor people (66 percent).

Most importantly, 46 percent of Americans say that “churches and clergy have not provided enough moral leadership on the country’s most pressing economic problems,” while 45 percent of Americans disagree. The division over this issue is not fully explained in the study, but it’s helpful for people of faith to know this. Why? Because it should give us pause and make us ask ourselves whether we as individuals and as churches are reaching out to those in our communities who are struggling in this difficult economic climate.

Ask yourself:

  • Has your church reached out to local community direct-service organizations?
  • Has your pastor preached on the economy? (Here’s a great sermon for you!)
  • Has your church supported people in your own congregation struggling with economic woes?
  • Is your church taking action to talk to your local and national leaders about protecting funding for programs for poor and hungry people?

Without seeming like I’m tooting my own family’s horn, I was shocked and humbled when I found out that my dad, who pastors a church in Temecula, CA, gave one of our family’s cars to a family in his congregation who couldn’t afford to keep their car after their small business failed. I’ve heard of other churches that have set up a common pot for members struggling to make ends meet. And other church leaders and congregations have also boldly spoken out against unfair cuts to the federal budget  that would harm poor and hungry people.

Perhaps it’s time for people of faith to turn these statistics around so that Americans are no longer divided over whether or not the church is on their side. Let’s tell them, we are on your side and we are here to speak out for you.

Jeannie-choiJeannie Choi is associate editor of Bread for the World. 

 


 

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